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Organizational Complexity Alfonso Cornejo

Centro de Estrategia, Liderazgo y Transformación©
Complex Problems Solving
in the Organization
Organizational Complexity
Today's organization is caught between the paradigms of the past that
prevent it from becoming more dynamic and flexible. In recent years
they have unsuccessfully searched for formulas that allow them to
survive in an increasingly dynamic and turbulent competitive
environment. However, the changes have been partial and they have
not managed to adapt the essence of the business according to the
new and incremental demands of the environment. Despite everything,
we know that organizations must learn to co-evolve and adapt their
structures in this new environment if they want to remain within the
competitive arena.
Carson, Flood, 1990 Dealing with Complexity ©
Why Organizational Complexity?
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The more elements the organization has, and the greater number of relationships
and situations that can arise, the greater the number of systems, departments,
roles, functions, procedures, policies, etc. should be to properly manage the system.
How many types of Complexity
a) Complexity of Origin:
Due to the characteristics of the organization and its
nature, for example. 3M vs Budweiser.
b) Residual Complexity:
This type of complexity is related to the daily
operation of the system, for example conflict
triggered by silos, cancellation of orders, delay of
delivery supplies, staff turnover, etc.
c) Caused Complexity: Complexity that is generated
by biased and personal decisions, for example,
buying the wrong technology, hiring the wrong
executive, launching products without adequate
analysis, etc.
Elements to better understand Complexity
We live in an increasingly dynamic world that requires us to pay more and more
attention to detail to achieve permanent success. These challenges confront us
with everyday situations that could be called complicated or complex, however, it
is important to make the distinction.
The complicated can be solved; it will take time, energy, effort, and the systematic
application of techniques and tools. On the contrary, when we say that something
is complex it is because we are faced with a situation full of interactions that are
dynamically connected, and whose effects are sometimes not immediate, but will
be perceived in time due to the occurrence of delays .
There are some general properties that we can comment on as particular to
complex situations and to which we must pay attention, in order to diagnose and
solve the situation in the direction of optimization, and not in the opposite
Big Picture
We must be able to distinguish between seeing
simultaneously the "Forest and the trees." Complex
situations require a systemic vision of reality,
identifying the parts, components, and their
interactions, at different levels of focus. We must
observe the different elements or components that
participate in a situation, and if there is conflict
between them. So, we must also carefully observe
the structures that are causing behaviors in the
differents situations.
Short, medium and log term
The complexity of the systems dictates that many of
the results that we expect to see in the short term
cannot be seen except medium and longer terms.
Remember that systems involve properties that
demand stabilization and learning curves between the
parts. Likewise, many of the mistakes we have made
have an impact for future times. All this is thanks to
the fact that the line that separates causes and effects
in a system is not always immediate but is affected by
delays. For this reason, it is not recommended to rely
on instinctive and easy short-term solutions, because
hidden long-time effects eventually will appear.
Dynamic interdependence
Complex situations are not only the connection of
a small number of variables; when we analyze in
depth, we will discover a large number of
elements participating with multiple interactions.
That in reality means that it is not so simple to
attack and solve a problematic situation, if we do
not truly understand "the wiring" that connects
the variables, components, causes and
consequences. Additionally, connection patterns
between elements change over time, so
something that worked in the past will not
necessarily work the same in the future.
Non intended consequences
Complex situations require a real analysis to be
understood and solved. Each situation is a set of
right guess, errors and opportunities not fully
exploited in the past. Many times, we can act with
good intentions, but if we do not fully understand
the system, we can reduce its performance
causing an irremediably inverse effect to what we
were expecting. Thus, some "steamed" decisions
can cause us to reduce our productivity, decrease
motivation or lower sales instead of increasing
Alfonso Cornejo
Consultant with 25 years of experience. Author of 2 books on Organizational Complexity. Associate professor at EGADE MBA in México and
UIDE International MBA in Ecuador. Competences: Strategic Thinking, Complex Problems Solving, Organizational Development and Cultural
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